18 September 2015

Gone

The last time I saw Fred he was curled upon our back lawn. With radar ears still attuned to possible danger or feeding opportunities, he looked up warily when I emerged from our kitchen door with cheap dog food on an old tin plate.

Customarily at this point, Fred would dance away to the shady cover of bracken fronds or the fatsia japonica bush that grows in a space once occupied by a very old apple tree. But that late afternoon he made little effort to shy away as I placed his free meal three or four yards from his resting place.

He looked at me with pinpoint accuracy. It is difficult to read any animal's eyes for we are liable to put human constructions on their internal emotions. Nonetheless I thought that Fred was saying two things with his eyes - "Thank you!" and "I have almost reached the end". 

He was painfully thin and his gingery pelt was scraggy - as if he had lost the energy to groom himself properly. His rump was almost bald as if, troubled by parasites, he had scratched the fur away or perhaps he had recently been attacked by another fox or a well-fed pet dog.

Earlier in the day, our next door neighbour had dropped round the phone number of the local RSPCA (Royal Society for the Protection of Animals). It seemed that another neighbour had been alarmed by Fred's condition. She said there were flies about his rear end and he seemed desperately weak. Euthanasia would, she apparently  thought, be the most humane end to his vulpine life.

From our kitchen window I watched Fred make a half-hearted attempt to consume the plate of food but it wasn't long before he stole away - limping up the little garden path towards our vegetable patch. And that was my last sight of him.

In the following days, I  looked under bushes and into other secret places, hoping to find Fred's lifeless body so that I could bury it decently somewhere and mark his grave with rocks and a flower or two.

I shall probably never know the exact place or time when he died but I will remember that piercing last look he gave me.  We had a bond that he also recognised. Strange as this may seem, I am enormously thankful that he  came into our lives so often these past few months and  proud that we nourished him right to the end. Goodbye Fred! Sweet dreams!

Urban Fox

Gingerly he slinked
Quite slyly
Into our lives
Standing there on the lawn
Gazing at evening sunshine
Reflected in our windows
Watching our shapes
Moving behind the glass
Quite ghostly.

I brought him food
And called him Fred
As if honouring
Some pagan god.
He would  "wolf it down"
Or scurry under
The fatsia japonica
Jaws clamped
Round his midnight feast.

Then just as he came
He left us
Never to be seen again
Like a dream
That evaporates
In morning light.

Hated like a gipsy
Feared like a beggar
Unstroked or chin tickled
He died somewhere
Under a privet hedge
Or garden shed
With no stone
Inscription
"Here lies Fred."

32 comments:

  1. This is really sad. Just right for a damp dismal morning.
    He didn't last long but didn't look that good when you first posted pictures of him.

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    1. It's not damp and dismal in South Yorkshire this morning but there's a fox-shaped cloud hovering.

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  2. This is indeed very sad news about Fred. I have a magpie mum and dad and now new baby I feed and I too worry about their safety. I feel quite sad about Fred.

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    1. Congratulations on the birth of your new baby Leisha! I never knew that you were expecting! It's good that you are feeding your new baby as they require regular nourishment.... Sorry to have brought you that sad news about Fred's demise.

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  3. I'm so sorry about Fred. Maybe he'll surprise us by returning. And maybe not. In any case, you made his life much better, and you should take some comfort from that.

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    1. Thank you Steve. And yes - in spite of this epitaph-blogpost, I also vainly hope he returns.

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  4. Poor dear old Fred! I am convinced he was anything but "dear" to the smaller animals he has killed for food during his lifetime, but it is sad to know that he won't ever return to your garden for his regular meal, a silent conversation with you and a photo or two.

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    1. There's a fox shaped hole in my heart.

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  5. I am sorry....even though i am not alover of foxes.....

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    1. Thanks Jonno. Most Welshmen prefer sheep I believe.

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  6. You are a kind, compassionate man in spite of all the bluster and bravado. You remind me of St. Francis of Assisi. A sad story and a truly poignant post.

    P.S. - I watched a very interesting program the other night on PBS that purports to have solved the mystery of how the moai may have "walked" across Rapa Nui as the native population has always claimed. You can watch the program here:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/mystery-easter-island.html

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    1. Thank you for the link Bob. I will watch it later. There are so many theories about the purpose and transportation of the moai but none are proven beyond doubt.

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    2. The link was blocked to European visitors. I guess the moai were upright and "walked" with ropes rather like you might pivot a heavy gas cylinder from left to right - moving it forwards.

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  7. I'm so sorry to hear this. I will miss your stories about Fred.

    You should take comfort in knowing that you made the last days of his life easier and more comfortable. I'm sure he considered you a friend.

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    1. I would have liked to invite him down to the local pub for a beer or two and a chat about chickens and Basil Brush.

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  8. R.I.P., Fred. You'll be missed.

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  9. Through your stories about fearless Fred I became very attached to him. And I'm saddened at his loss. I've tears as I write this. I know it probably seems silly to others, but I don't care. I've said before that I am a big softy...and I give no apology for being so.

    I'm thankful, as I am sure Fred was that he had you to care for him during his last months. And I'm glad that he had someone who cared about him...the poor old fellow. I loved reading your accounts about Fred and seeing his photos. Thanks, Yorkie...from me...and from Fred Fox.

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    1. It pleases me that from afar you also became attached to him Lee and I am sorry that he won't be providing us with more foxy tales.

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    1. name has been added to the book of condolences Alphie.

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  11. I am always sad when a living creature suffers (wasps and their ilk excepted although I try and despatch them quickly) but I have mixed views about foxes (but not about the barbaric pastime of fox hunting). Fortunately I never have to take decisions about them because there are none on Lewis nor in New Zealand. RIP Fred.

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    1. I don't like to kill anything but slugs, garden snails and mosquitoes challenge my instinct to value the lives of even the tiniest of creatures.

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    2. I don't think, YP, that I realised what a softie I am until this summer. It's the first time in 40 years I can recall such a slug/snail problem here on Lewis and boy is it a problem this year. I eventually had to resort to protecting my vegetables with slug pellets (horrible things) but when I actually managed to catch them alive (my biggest harvest round one plant was 17) I threw them all into the croft away from my plants. I am just hoping that next year they are not so prolific or it will be a real war.

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    3. I have found that a good way to get rid of slugs is to stand in the vegetable plot at sundown and sing "The Minstrel Boy" at the top of your voice night after night. Gradually they will slink away.

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    4. If that's a remedy I could 'sing' anything and they's slink away. Ah. There was a time though.....so many moons ago.

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  12. I'm sorry about your fox. I've a pair of black-tail deer that usually hang around our place and the younger of the two (a mother/daughter pair) is quite tame. Now that hunting season has begun, I'm rather regretting not scaring them off as I'm afraid they'll not run when someone aims.....I've had some rather enjoyable times, sitting on the porch steps and talking over the day with Little Deer & her mama.

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    1. A heart-warming tale Hilly. I cannot imagine what Mrs Bambi and Baby Bambi might talk about. The situation in Syria or life in the woods?

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  13. Just found this, YP, through a link from Adrian.

    I was very touched by your beautiful tribute to this once-magnificent creature. I'm sure that you are missing him still, and my heart goes out to you.

    With tears im my eyes - - - - Richard

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    1. Thank you Richard. You are right. He has left a fox-shaped gap in my life.

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  14. I am so sorry you lost your Fred, Mr. Pudding. Bet you anything that on his way out he told some friends where to get the best meal in town!

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    1. I just hope he didn't text any Colorado bears! We don't want them hiding in the shrubbery or investigating my compost bins!

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